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Manchester United Fixtures

Wolves Wrap, Owen’s Crocked Again, Transfer Talk, and O’Shea’s Big Payday

I won’t spend a lot of time yesterday’s Carling Cup tie against Wolves, as it was a home match that, for once this season, I wasn’t particularly concerned whether or not we’d win. I didn’t watch, but I did follow along on the live match commentary and caught highlights afterwards, and if there’s one thing I can say, it’s my, doesn’t that Chicharito have some great timing or what?

I wouldn’t have been surprised not to see him at all against Wolves after playing the full 90 at Stoke on Sunday, but the occasion called for it, and he duly delivered a second match-winner in three days to see off our Premier League counterparts 3-2.

Safe to say he’s making it harder and harder to keep him out of the starting lineup, with five goals in his last six appearances, including three game-winners. Quantity? Check. Quality? Check.

I got my first live glimpse of Chicharito during Mexico’s World Cup match against France, and all I needed to see to know that United had landed a good one was his cool, calm, collected finish as he made mincemeat of a fine young keeper in Hugo Lloris to put Mexico ahead in the second half. Fast forward four months later, and he’s doing the same thing for United. If he has any nerves, he sure doesn’t show it. I know you have to temper expectations with new players, especially those are still getting their feet wet at this level, but at this rate, a 15-goal season is well within his reach, and that kind of output would be massive.

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Not only did yesterday’s match present an opportunity for the likes of Bebe, Fabio, and Gabriel Obertan to get some starts under their belts and let the likes of Wes Brown and Darron Gibson maintain match fitness, but having the Carling Cup instead of the Champions League this week allows the key players to rest up and be fully ready to go for a big match against Tottenham.

Speaking of that match, considering how things have transpired in the second half in several matches against Spurs in the last few seasons, I might sleep in, have a late breakfast, and then settle in for the second half. Just in time to see the fireworks show, if all goes according to the script.

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One player who won’t be available for Saturday’s match is Michael Owen, who could use a favorable fortune cookie right now. After recovering from a groin injury that’s kept him out since the Sunderland match early this month, Owen picked up a hamstring injury in training that kept him out against Wolves and will keep him laid up for another few weeks.

It’s highly unfortunate, since he had hit a nice, if all too brief, run before his injury against Sunderland. With Chicharito taking full advantage of the opportunities he’s receiving right now, it looks like he’s firmly solidifying his place as the third striker when Rooney returns, which doesn’t bode well for Mickey’s chances when he’s finally ready to get back into action.

It’s hard to see him being re-signed, because I highly doubt he wants to be the fourth or fifth striker even at Manchester United, but should we consider selling him in January? It would seem to depend on the offer, because he appears to be just a little hesitant about signing on with a struggler (i.e. West Ham). Aston Villa, perhaps? I suppose we’ll see. I think he still has some value to United while he’s here, as it would seem that our Mexican goal machine is going to be eased in over his first season and Macheda is still trying to find his feet, but at the same time, you’d rather not see him twiddling his thumbs on the bench when he still has a good few goals left in him (when upright, of course).

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On the transfer news front, nary a week goes by that United aren’t linked with at least a handful of transfer targets, ranging from the likely to the laughable.

This week has seen the Steven Defour rumors gain some steam again, after the Standard Liege midfielder told Belgian TV that he was aware of United’s interest and that it could be time for him to make a move. After missing a chunk of last season due to a broken foot (we all know about Fergie’s little get-well message to him), Defour has been in great form for Standard this season, including scoring three goals in 12 league matches.

Not only is he fully fit and showing the form that put him on United’s radar in the first place, but with Standard not in any European competition this season, there isn’t an issue about him being cup-tied or having a little extra wear by having had to play an extra several European matches during the first few months of the season. With that in mind, January’s the perfect time to test Standard’s resolve, at the very least.

The other name making the rounds in the rumors is one that’s far, far less likely, in the name of Pepe Reina, who, according to the ever-trustworthy Mirror, we would be willing to spend £12m on in January.

Now, I’ve learned not to take a lot of stock in what the Mirror says, but the speculation was enough for Roy Hodgson to comment on today. I think Roy has more important things to worry about besides United pursuing his keeper, but that’s neither here nor there.

For what little it’s worth though, in the unlikely event that Liverpool were to consider selling one of their most prominent assets to one of their most prominent rivals, I think the asking price would be a wee bit more than £12m.

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Last but not least, if reports are to be believed, John O’Shea is about to get his wages bumped up to £80k per week. Excuse me for a minute, as I think I’m going to call up my mother and berate her for my genes not allowing me to pursue a career in sports.

Seriously though, as maligned as O’Shea has been at times, Fergie’s been able to slot him in at a number of positions over the years, and he’s made some pretty important contributions as well. Though he is by no means spectacular at anything he does (unless you count his ability to do a number of things just well enough), his dependability, versatility, and experience are all valuable assets that can’t be overlooked. The big names might be the ones who are most remembered when all’s said and done, but you would be hard-pressed to find a championship team that doesn’t have a John O’Shea in its ranks. .